School was founded in 1897 by Margaret Isabella Gardiner, whose
youthful ambition was 'to make a school where girls are treated
like sensible creatures'. Following a Cambridge degree (as it would
be now) a teaching post and a Headship, a legacy enabled Miss Gardiner
to realise her ambition. She was offered a house in Aldeburgh by
Dr Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, and there started a school with seven
pupils (boarding and day). Numbers grew and Southwold had several
large rentable houses. By 1898 Miss Gardiner was in 'The Elms' (now
'May Place') and the former Golf Links Hotel (now 'Greyfriars' and
'Regency House') became the School House. Various other properties
wanted permanence. Samuel Gardner (Chairman 1900-1931) helped form
a limited liability company, and money was raised to buy a site
in Reydon. The architect Arnold Mitchell's first four boarding houses
and a classroom block were completed by September 1902.
Ill health caused
Miss Gardiner to resign in 1908. In 1909 the energetic and charismatic
Lucy Mary Silcox became Headmistress. Numbers increased: in 1910
an Assembly Hall (the Gardiner Hall) and Library were built; the
new Clough House in 1914.
difficulties of World War I (shelling of the area and evacuation)
the School continued to expand. A Science Block and Studio were
added, and a Music Block planned. Centre Cliff Hotel in Southwold
was acquired for a Junior School.
retired in 1926. Into her place came the calm integrity of Ella
Mary Edghill. The 1930s saw much building. A House (Bronte), a Gymnasium
and Swimming Pool and a Sanatorium (now Saint George's). The then
Chairman, the Honourable Alexander Shaw (later 2nd Lord Craigmyle),
donated the Chapel, built in memory of Samuel Gardner, and he later
financed the Cloisters.
Edghill in 1938, Margaret Trail Williamson had immediate problems.
At the time of the Munich crisis, trenches were dug in the field
opposite. Centre Cliff was closed. By the time World War II began,
there were nine air raid shelters. In the 1938 Christmas holiday
the School housed 200 refugee boys from Germany and Austria (mostly
The School was
evacuated in May 1940: first to King Arthur's Castle Hotel in Tintagel,
then to Hinton St George in Somerset, until 1945 - a testing time
for both Miss Williamson and the Chairman, Sir Ernest Gowers. The
return to Reydon saw a helpful influx of new pupils, but buildings
and grounds needed restoration. They had been occupied by the Army,
and by the Navy from 1943. As H.Q. of the Eastern Command for D-Day
landings, it had been visited by Winston Churchill and Field Marshal
progress marked Miss Williamson's 20 years. There was an emphasis
on the Arts, and many recitals were given by visiting musicians.
Mary Oakeley continued the post-war recovery. The Sanatorium became
a Junior School, and Bronte House, which had accommodated the juniors
since 1945, reverted to its earlier role. A new San was built next
to it. Miss Oakeley's pageants were memorable, as was her determination
to integrate the life of the School with the local community. Her
headship also saw more building: Dining Halls and Kitchen; new Laboratories
and Art and Craft rooms; an upper storey to the Cloisters and two
Mrs Anne Mustoe
was the first Headmistress to have had a career outside the teaching
profession. Her nine years of energetic growth culminated in the
building of the Craft, Design and Technology Centre. Retiring in
1987, she cycled, solo and successfully, round the world! Her successor,
Miss Margaret Claydon, was the first Headmistress who resigned,
in 1991, in order to marry.
Mrs Susan Campion
combined progressive ideas with a cheerful optimism, leaving in
1997, having overseen the building of a covered swimming pool. The
School's first headmaster, Richard Williams, is to be commended
for his energy and determination. A first-rate Sports Hall and Theatre
complex completed in 1999 concludes a fine range of buildings continued
over nearly 100 years.
For a detailed
history, see Bernard Keeling, Saint Felix School, Southwold and
the Old Felicians, Pioneers in the Emancipation of Women since 1897
(available from the School).
Pelling, Southwold, June 1999
Felix School became co-educational in 2002 and you can find out more about the school by visting their website: www.stfelix.co.uk